CHICAGO -- A lot of the Ravens tap-danced around the issue because it's the ultimate insult to a professional athlete, but the Q-word was close to leaking out of a lot of players' mouths.
The Chicago Bears (4-11) routed the Ravens, 24-3, yesterday before 40,853 at Soldier Field, but the 26,091 fans who didn't show up for Beanie Babies Day weren't the only no-shows. The Ravens' defense didn't report in the first half, when Chicago scored 24 unanswered points, and the two Pro Bowl players on defense didn't make a difference as James Allen looked like Walter Payton in rushing for 163 yards in his first start.
The Ravens (5-10) let another scrub quarterback beat them. Steve Stenstrom started his fifth game this season and completed 19 of 28 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown while toying with cornerback Rod Woodson. It was the Bears' first win after six straight losses and a bye week, and made it all but official that Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda won't be returning next season.
In three years, Marchibroda had prided himself in saying that his team "didn't forget to fight." But now, the war is over, because the troops are surrendering.
"We have a lot of guys not stepping up," said right guard Jeff Blackshear, the team's most consistent offensive performer. "I'm sick and tired of it. There are a lot of guys just turning it in. I've been in this situation before. Just because you're bringing in a new coach does not mean you're going to win.
"I saw this happen in Seattle when everybody knew that Tom Flores was getting fired. You still have to block, tackle and make plays. You can't be a professional if you think about next year. The time is now. Next year is not promised to you."
"No, I don't think we quit," said safety Stevon Moore. "I'll give my teammates the benefit of the doubt for now until I see the film."
But Moore added: "Guys weren't ready to play. This is embarrassing, extremely disappointing. We didn't play to win. We played to get by."
The Ravens were blitzed by three straight touchdowns during a 12-minute stretch in the second quarter, all of them set up by big plays. The first occurred with about 12 minutes left in the half, when Allen ran off right guard and bounced outside of Woodson and safety Ralph Staten for a 57-yard gain to the Ravens' 1-yard line. On the next play, Allen ran off left tackle for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead with 11: 37 left in the half.
Allen, who had the most Bears rushing yards since Payton in 1986, was involved in another big play midway in the quarter. The Bears caught middle linebacker Ray Lewis blitzing, and Allen bounced outside again for 54 yards to the Ravens' 16. On the next play, flanker Curtis Conway split Woodson and free safety Corey Harris on a short post pattern and a touchdown with 7: 23 left.
"You've got to give the Bears credit," said defensive end Rob Burnett. "We came up short a few times in our gap responsibilities, and Allen saw them. They also had a good game plan with the short passes, the play-action stuff, that helped them to control the clock."
"The first half was the worst football we have played since I have been here," Marchibroda said. "I think it's a little bit of everything. We had some guys who played last week think they were pretty good this week. I do not understand it. They are young, and they have to be ready to play every week."
The Ravens' secondary was atrocious. Harris spent most of the day watching instead of reacting. Staten seemed to take wrong pursuit angles on both of Allen's long runs, and this had to be one of Woodson's worst days as a pro.
Conway burned Woodson for a 47-yard reception to the Ravens' 24 that eventually led to a 4-yard touchdown run by Robert Chancey with five seconds left in the half. Woodson apologized but refused post-game interviews.
Stenstrom said: "Woodson studies a lot of film, and he sits on a lot of routes because he knows what is coming. That's what makes him great, but that's also how you get him every now and then. Curtis gave him the double move, and he fell for it."
The 24 points were all the Bears needed, because the Ravens' offense was, well, normal. It was missing four starters because of injuries, but this wasn't a high-octane offense even when tackles Jonathan Ogden (ankle) and Orlando Brown (ankle), center Wally Williams (neck) and receiver Jermaine Lewis (ankle) were in the lineup. The Ravens had 176 yards of total offense, and were 5-for-14 on third-down conversions.
Running back Priest Holmes had 17 yards rushing (the team gained a season-low 22), and once the Ravens fell behind, quarterback Jim Harbaugh became an easy target for the Bears' blitzes.
"I don't want to point fingers at anybody, but it's hard to keep coming up with excuses," Harbaugh said: "It's hard to evaluate which players are playing hard, but the scoreboard lets you know who was playing hard and who wasn't."
Harbaugh said the team did little to counter the blitz with screens or draws or quick slants.
And what about those rollout and sprint-out passes that the Ravens promised this season?
"The rollout hasn't been a big part of our plan," Harbaugh said.
Neither has winning.
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Detroit Lions
Site: Ravens stadium
When: Sunday, 1: 01 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Tickets: Sold out
Series: First meeting
Line: Ravens by 2 1/2
Pub Date: 12/21/98